Clearing Up Misconceptions About Corporate Election -- By: Brian Abasciano

Journal: Ashland Theological Journal
Volume: ATJ 41:0 (NA 2009)
Article: Clearing Up Misconceptions About Corporate Election
Author: Brian Abasciano

Clearing Up Misconceptions About Corporate Election

Brian Abasciano*


The nature of election has long been one of the most hotly debated topics in evangelical theology.1 The question lies at the heart of the debate between Arminianism and Calvinism, a debate which commands so much interest and attention because it ultimately has to do with the character of God. But beyond the inherent appeal the disagreement between Arminianism and Calvinism holds for those with a high view of Scripture, the debate has been raging with a heightened intensity in recent years with no sign of abating due to factors such as (1) the current resurgence of Calvinism in evangelicalism (which, in its popular form, must be considered more Arminian than Calvinist overall),2 (2) the popularity of the internet, where on the one hand multitudes of laymen now flock to gain theological information, and on the other hand Calvinists have been quite prolific, and (3) the advent of influential outlooks such as Open Theism and the New Perspective on Paul, the former directly opposed to Calvinism and the latter providing various insights that can be effectively pressed into service by Arminians (whether or not they agree with the view in general) to support their system.

Traditionally, both Calvinism and Arminianism have conceived of election unto salvation as individual. That is, each individual is elected individually to belong to God. On this view, election of the body of God’s people refers to the election of the group as a consequence of the discrete election of each individual who is chosen and their gathering into a group of people sharing a common experience of individual election. The main difference between the two views has been that Calvinists view election as unconditional and Arminians view it as conditional on divine foreknowledge of human faith. But there is another view of election which ultimately supports Arminian theology and has come to command a great deal of scholarly support—the view of corporate election. Indeed, in a text like Romans 9, which is a locus classicus for the doctrine of election, corporate election of one sort or another has become the most dominant type of election perceived by interpreters.3 Its popularity has probably been due largely to the scholarly community’s greatly increased sensitivity to the signal importance of the Jewish matrix of early Christianity and the profound indebtedness to the Old Testament on the part of the New Testament authors.

But desp...

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